June 10, 2006
I am doubled.
This was the great sci-fi adventure of my childhood - The Six Million Dollar Man - squeezed into ABC's early 70's lineup after Star Trek had come and gone and before Knight Rider was to become my inspiration for my choice of clothing color throughout adolescence. I don't remember much about the series or storylines, except that Steve Austin always saved the day, once hooked a killer robot tank to a helicopter on the second try, and the opening sequence showed him running on a treadmill with the digital numbers spiraling ever higher.
"I'm sure I wasn't the only seventies kid to run around the school playground with my pals in pretend slow motion and play-fight making the bionic 'da-da-da-da-da-da...' sound," Lee Fennessy from London writes. And Chip Rowe reports about a girl "who was so enamored of bionics that she had circuitry tattooed on her right bicep." I understand both these impulses, more now as a pseudo-athlete, maybe, than before I started running.
A man, barely alive, yet rebuilt to be better, stronger, faster. That concept and the treadmill image has stayed with me throughout my life, but more-so in recent months. When one has a massive lung infection that causes you to cough blood and have to rest just on the five block walk to the subway station, one begins to hear the echo of "...a man barely alive..." and one wonders if he'll be able to rebuild himself - with the assistance of modern medicine, of course. It's easy to have doubts and dark thoughts when one is sick: sometimes you just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But then after the failed oral antibiotics, the IVs finally did the trick, but only so far: they knocked down the infection and that gave me a chance to start rebuilding myself. But could I be better? Stronger? Faster?
We already know the answer to faster: yes! At my last 10K, I turned in a great run, with a PR that will be tough to beat. But how about the other two? Surely I'd been feeling stronger these last couple months, most of the time. Nagging joint pains I've reported on before have had me worried and the damn shin splints and calf pains just will not go away! So ... better? Maybe not. I am not yet better than I was last October for the Staten Island Half.
But yesterday came the proof: I had a checkup at the CF clinic and the numbers do not lie. I've gained five pounds. Holy shit! I'm two pounds away from matching the heaviest I've ever been. Apparently, my stubborn adherance to a steady, if mildly boring, diet and the addition of a Weight Gainer 2200 shake to my morning routine has paid off. I went from 117 pounds to 123! This is astounding to me and to the doctors as well. Keeping weight is hard enough, but for a Cystic who's not on prednisone to actually gain weight is a victory achieved! (I have a ways to go to get to my target weight of 135, so we'll see what the next few months bring.) One important thing about the extra weight: I believe it's causing my joint and muscle pain. I'm not used to carrying this weight all the time, particularly in shoes that haven't worked out. Well, daddy's got a new pair of shoes and by god we're gonna make this work, figure out what stretches and weights will help, and get the joints and muscles to play ball.
Second thing at the appointment: the pulmonary function tests. Critical numbers, these, since treatment decisions are based on them. They are as much an ID card for cystics and asthmatics as PR 10K times are to runners. I am pleased to announce that my lung function has doubled since February! My FVC (forced vital capacity, or total lung volume) went from 54% (of normal for a man my age, height, and weight range) to 86%. Even more important, my FEV1 (volume of air forced out in the first second) shot up from 27% to 55%!
I honestly don't feel in my lungs like they're that high, but the numbers don't lie. We'll see what the coming months bring. In the meantime, I have much to do, including FINALLY sitting down and creating a marathon training plan and getting cracking. Somehow, these results feel like some kind of green light I've been waiting for, no matter how illogical that sounds.
I've often wondered why people would get tattoos; they mostly seem like a whim to me, something that won't mean much later in life, if they even do now. (The kanji tramp stamp is highly suspect - I mean...how is the girl assured that little glyph really means "love" or "peace" like the tattoo artist said? Maybe, as my friend Sam McColl surmised at a barbecue, it really says "whore".) But my friend Steve in San Francisco, after finishing the Kaiser Half, got a speedy stick-figure tattooed on his calf: significant since he's an extreme asthmatic AND a racewalker. It is a sign of victory and it will always have meaning. Another runner, tho I can't remember who, mentioned possibly getting a little Mercury wing above the ankle, one for each marathon finished.
Maybe I need to consider some circuitry on my chest.